An ankle injury will sideline Kentucky senior wide receiver Dorian Baker for a significant amount of time and perhaps the entire season, UK confirmed on Monday.
Baker’s injury, described as an ankle fracture and dislocation, came during Saturday’s final team scrimmage at Kroger Field and a week after the Cats lost starting left tackle Cole Mosier for the season to an anterior cruciate ligament. The wide receiver will have surgery to repair the injury on Tuesday.
This season was supposed to be a comeback of sorts for Baker, a 6-foot-3, 211-pound player from Cleveland Heights, Ohio. He played in just 10 games in 2016 after suffering a hamstring injury in preseason camp.
“We’re very disappointed for Dorian, as he had a good offseason and was helping lead our receivers during preseason camp,” Coach Mark Stoops said in a news release by UK. “However, we are hopeful for a full recovery and look forward to his eventual return to the field.”
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Baker has a redshirt year available and could return in 2018 if he does not play this season.
On Sunday, Baker tweeted: “When you got that dog mentality nothing can stop you only slow you down, we good, set back for a MAJOR comeback.”
Following the injury last year, Baker came back to have 14 catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns, including a crucial score in the upset win at Louisville last year. Baker’s sophomore season was his best to date, with a team-best 55 catches for 608 yards and five touchdowns.
The loss of Baker means Kentucky will have to rely heavily on other receivers, some less proven. His backup listed on the Cats’ depth chart out of spring practices is Kayaune Ross.
Ross, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound junior college transfer, has had a strong camp by all accounts after bouncing back from a back issue last season.
“He’s making some plays, but he’s got to continue to improve like we all do,” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said on Saturday. “He’s had a good camp, I wouldn’t say it’s a great camp. He’s got to continue to, I don’t want to say learn the offense, but be perfect in the offense. We just can’t have mistakes and he’s really limited that, which is a good thing.”
The Cats also have the ability to move players around at those wide receiver spots, including Blake Bone and Tavin Richardson, who had nine catches for 160 yards last season while subbing in for Baker at times.
UK has other veteran receivers in Garrett Johnson and Charles Walker, but they played mostly slot last year, although Johnson has been moved outside for large portions of fall camp.
The loss of Baker means Kentucky will be relying more heavily on a freshman wide receiver group that has drawn high praise from Cats coaches this preseason, including slot receivers Lynn Bowden and Clevan Thomas as well as outside threats Isaiah Epps and Josh Ali.
“They’re really good players,” Stoops said of that group. “They’re just ball players.”
It’s a group that just does the right thing the right way, quarterback Stephen Johnson said.
“They’re doing what they’re coached to do,” the senior said. “Whenever coach says something, run a route a certain way, they’re doing it that way, creating space for themselves. It really allows them to get open, for us to see.”